Fiction Reviews

Doctor Who and the Daleks

(1964 / 2022) David Whitaker, BBC Books, £30 / Can$63.95 / US$39.99, hrdbk, x + 210pp, ISBN 978-1-785-94801-5


This is a reprint of the first ever Doctor Who novel, originally published in 1964 as Doctor Who in an exiting adventure with the Daleks. This edition is illustrated in full colour throughout by Robert Hack and features an introduction by Neil Gaiman. As such, it is a must-have for die-hard Doctor Who fans (aka Whovians).

Doctor Who hit our screens in 1963, starting on the 23rd of November. The first story was ‘An Unearthly Child’ and it was immediately followed by ‘The Daleks’. David Whitaker was the Story Editor for the show, though it was actually Terry Nation who wrote the story and the script for this, the first Dalek adventure. David Whitaker decided that there was a novel in the story and so wrote one, though as it was intended as a one-off (if only he had known… ) he wrote it as if ‘An Unearthly Child’ had not taken place and we needed to be introduced to the characters. Thus it is not quite a novelisation of the original TV story because it has a different beginning, but once they are inside the TARDIS it is pretty much the same, though with a few added domestic details.

It is written in the first person by Ian Chesterton, a school teacher who is looking for a different career. Driving back to London from an interview, he finds himself crawling slowly through thick, night-time fog as he crosses Barnes Common. He comes across a traffic accident and a young lady, Barbara Wright, staggers onto sight, clearly somewhat injured. Ian is immediately worried about her as she seems confused, possibly concussed, and is intent on stumbling onwards through the fog in search of her pupil, Susan, who she was driving home. He later learns that Barbara is a secretary who has been earning extra money as an academic tutor and has recently been entirely concentrating on the latter, having been employed to aid the private education of an unusual teenager, Susan English. Even as Ian wonders what to do next, an elderly gentleman in a cloak steps out of the fog and assures them that all is alright and they can now go home - they need not worry about Susan as she is safe. Far from reassured, they discretely follow the gentleman and discover he seems to be hiding in a police telephone box.

Introductions over, from this point the novel adheres to the storyline of the TV series (except that they do not start their adventure by vesting the cavemen of the past). Following the gentleman into the small confines of the box, Ian and Barbara do, of course, get a great surprise. It is much bigger on the inside! It is the size (at least) of a large house and it is clearly their home. They find that Susan is indeed alright but that Grandfather, as she refers to the old gentleman, is far from pleased at their entrance. As a result of the intrusion, the Doctor, as they soon learn to call him, decides that they must leave. He throws switches and the TARDIS (which only appears to be a police telephone box) takes off randomly into time and space, materialising on the planet Skaro.

They land in a devastated desert of petrified forest, with no signs of any life at all. As they scout the area, they see a distant city, though it looks completely dead. The Doctor wishes to visit the city but the others disagree, so he creates a problem - a fluid link has been damaged and they will need to search the city to find a supply of mercury. Their visit does not go as expected; the city is not deserted but is home to the Daleks, a race of grotesque, mutated beings who live and move round encased in metal machines. The Doctor and his companions are soon captured but worse, they realise they are succumbing to the poisons in the atmosphere, the result of the terrible war which petrified the forest and wiped out most life so long ago.

However, the Daleks have recently become aware of the Thals, another race to survive the war, and they discover that the Thals have a treatment for the poison. And so they send Susan to find the Thals and their medicines, and then welcome them to the city. It is a trap! The Daleks believe that the planet should be theirs and theirs alone and so intend to wipe out the Thals. Fortunately, the Doctor and his companions escape and stop the slaughter. Later they and the Thals, now their friends, attack the city and defeat the Daleks.

In addition to the story and Neil Gaiman’s introduction, there are brief notes on the characters, as well as on David Whitaker and Terry Nation. Apart from the correction of a few errors and inconsistencies, this is the original text. Some of the expressions in common use at the time seem a little out of date now but they have been left as they were; these and other notes are discussed in a seven-page section ‘Between The Lines’ at the end of the book.

The story is well enough written and the illustrations make it something special. If you enjoy Doctor Who, then this is a volume I would recommend for your shelves.

Peter Tyers

See also Jonathan's review of Doctor Who and the Daleks as well as Ian's review.


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